Riley is right in seeking advice

Published 2:46 am Monday, December 22, 2003

By Staff
People in positions of power rarely suffer from a shortage of advice. There are always people around who are eager to whisper in their ears, cajole them in one direction or another.
But good advice is another matter entirely. That's always in short supply. Part of handling power effectively, and being a good leader, is knowing what input to ignore and what to put to use when making important decisions.
And perhaps most importantly, knowing when a problem needs to be looked at from a fresh perspective.
Governor Bob Riley has been smart in seeking advice from Alabama's business community to help with bringing efficiency to state government.
It's long been a rallying cry of those frustrated with government waste that our public bodies should function more like businesses, managing the resources taxpayers' provide them as if they were precious commodities, rather than as if all our pockets were bottomless.
But as often as it's been said, it never happens. Bureacracies, despite reformers' best intentions, keep functioning as bureacracies, and too much of taxpayers' money keeps going down the drain.
For a couple of reasons, Alabama may be poised to see at least some degree of business wisdom applied to the way government operates here.
On Sept. 9, voters overwhelmingly said "no" to a new $1.2 billion tax package, largely because they lacked faith in the officeholders responsible for spending the dollars it would have raised.
And Riley, along with others in state government, got the message.
To his credit, one of the things the governor has done to try and change taxpayers' opinion of state government is to find ways for it to operate more efficiently, and more out in the open.
In doing so, he has gone exactly where he should have -- he's sought advice from the state's business community, asking them to apply their knowledge and experience to the task of making government operate a little less like government, and a little more like business.
Two commissions were formed, one under the auspices of the Business Council of Alabama, and one by legislative act. The first commission recently submitted its findings -- in the form of a 150-page report -- to the governor.
The second will be making its suggestions official after the first of the year.
Brewton's Carol Gordy serves on both of the commissions, and is excited about the possibilties they represent.
As we all should be. Forming the two commissions was a needed first step in bringing a greater level of efficiency to the way state government operates, and doing so in a way that can at least begin restoring Alabamians' trust in their lawmakers.
But while we applaud this initial move, we should also keep in mind that the it's no good without the necessary follow-through. Riley now has to evaluate the commisions' recommendations, decide which of them can and should be implemented, and present them to lawmakers who may not like what they're being asked to swallow.
It will be an intertesting process to watch as it unfolds.
Will these efforts have better results than past attempts to make government operate more efficiently, more like business?
We'll see.
Throughout history, it's often been during times of crisis that major changes take place, that people alter their way of thinking.
So, as many around the state will tell you, the stage is perfectly set.